To the President of Ukraine
Dear Mr. President!
Seven years ago as a result of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation, an international armed conflict broke out in Ukraine and continues to this day. Its consequences for our state and citizens are enormous: more than 13 thousand people were killed, about 33 thousand people were injured, more than 1.4 million people were forced to leave their homes and became internally displaced persons, thousands of prisoners and missing persons, more than 55 thousand destroyed residential buildings only in the territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine.
The occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol led to the closure of enterprises, reduction of markets, reduction of purchasing and solvency, lower living standards, severance of social and family ties, catastrophic environmental impact and many other negative consequences.
All this requires a response from the Ukrainian authorities and civil society. However, if in 2014 it was necessary to take measures to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, in particular due to mass internal displacement, in 2021 Ukraine faces other issues in the context of an armed conflict.
One of the most challenging issues today is the lack of a systematic state coordinated policy of Ukraine to overcome the negative consequences of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation. The inconsistency of the positions and actions of the Parliament, the Government and the Office of the President of Ukraine carries risks for further deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, causing fear and misunderstanding on the part of the citizens of Ukraine.
An example is the situation with the issue of criminalization of cooperation with the occupying authorities (so-called “collaborationism”). According to the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for the Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, given the analysis of historical experience, the concept of “collaborationism” should be abandoned.
At the same time, only in February this year the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine registered three bills (including the deputies of the Servant of the People party), which aim to introduce criminal liability (up to the life imprisonment) for various forms of cooperation of Ukrainian citizens with the occupation authorities or aggressor country. Collaborationism as a concept is harmful because it expands the list of those who are planned to be prosecuted. Such legislative initiatives are aimed at revenge, not at achieving lasting peace and social harmony.
Proposals to criminalize “collaborationism” appear at a time when a number of issues necessary to realize the rights of victims of the conflict need to be resolved at the legislative level. In particular, this week the Verkhovna Rada agenda includes consideration of the draft Law “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine Concerning the Implementation of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law” (Reg. №2689) in the second reading, which will allow criminal prosecution for committing international crimes in the context of armed conflict (genocide, aggression, crimes against humanity and war crimes).
The procedure for absentee court proceedings and the terms of pre-trial investigation of crimes committed in the context of armed conflict also need to be standardized. Also, the issues of compensation for the damage caused by an armed conflict, determination of a status of civilian hostages and political prisoners and providing them with social protection, the introduction of mechanisms for the use of information from documents issued in the occupied territories, and other issues remain unresolved.
In addition to the legislative settlement of a number of issues that have arisen due to armed aggression, it is necessary to develop the conceptual foundations of state policy in the field of transitional justice. After all, before talking about the terms of imprisonment for cooperation with the occupier, first of all it is necessary to develop criteria for recognizing a person as a victim of an armed conflict and general approaches to compensation for the damage caused as a result of an armed aggression.
The topic of transitional justice is voluminous and multilevel, and the adoption of point bills, without defining a framework concept, is not only counterproductive but also harmful. Such bills only deepen the problem of inconsistencies at the legal and institutional levels. The first step should be the creation and approval of a comprehensive roadmap (concept) for the transitional justice process, the prioritization of goals and objectives, and the selection of appropriate tools and mechanisms to address the challenges that Ukraine is facing during an armed conflict.
We, the representatives of NGO sector, human rights and dialogue organizations, call on you, Mr. President, as the guarantor of the Constitution of Ukraine, to promote the coherence and consolidation of a state policy to overcome the negative consequences of an armed conflict and introduce a holistic and systemic approach to transitional justice at all levels.
Ukrainian citizens, both in the territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine and in the occupied territories, must be assured that all war crimes and crimes against humanity will be properly investigated and those guilty will be punished. All victims of war and occupation need to be provided with an effective compensation mechanism, and the state must start the immediate implementation of this mechanism. The victims need justice today.
Vostok SOS Charitable Foundation
Eastern Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives
NGO “Public holding “Group of Influence”
Charity Foundation Stabilization Support Services
Ukrainian Institute for Human Rights
Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
Kharkiv Institute for Social Research (KhISR)
Centre of Public Initiatives “Ideas for Change” (IfC)
The Crimean Human Rights Group